Thoughts On Microsoft’s E3 Conference

Thoughts On Microsoft’s E3 Conference

Man, it seems like so long ago, but only six hours have passed since Microsoft’s E3 conference ended and, with the madness of last night’s fevered Liveblog behind me, I’m starting to wonder precisely what I should be getting excited about from Microsoft over the next year.

The conference was pillared by two blockbusters: Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, so let’s start with the positives.

Halo 4 actually looks a little bit spectacular. It feels otherworldly in the way the first game felt, a feeling previous sequels could never replicate. Featuring a host of inventive new enemies and some seemingly crazy new weaponry, Halo 4 actually felt really fresh, and didn’t need to resort to the typical ‘wow’ of set pieces that most trailers tend to resort to. It seems as though the Halo ‘sandbox’ has been preserved, with just a little bit of extra panache thrown in for good measure.

In that respect Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 was a more traditional E3 demo. Explosions and such like. Very Call of Duty. Personally I was a little disappointed that Microsoft ended on a game that played precisely as we expected. We didn’t even really get to see any of the features that supposedly distinguish Black Ops 2 from its predecessors.

A handful of other games dazzled me, but few surprised me. Trey Parker and Matt Stone onstage presenting the South Park game was brilliant, mainly because they so easily skewered Microsoft’s focus on ‘taking’ over the living room: “How many times have you been watching an episode of South Park and thought, ‘I’d like to watch this on my television, while hooked into my mobile device, which is being controlled by my tablet device, which is hooked into my oven, all while sitting in the refrigerator,” said Trey Parker.


And speaking of Microsoft’s living room ambitions — the ambitions themselves were predictable, but I found the way in which Microsoft is attempting to take over your living room is quite ambitious, fluid and — more importantly — sensible.

Microsoft Smartglass is a device that allows you to integrate your smartphone or tablet to the Xbox 360. When I first heard the talking heads rabbling about this, I assumed it would be limited to Windows Tablets/Phone only — but no, apparently it supports all tablets and phone, which is an absolute masterstroke. The idea is that Smartglass works with the devices you already own — and I think that’s a great tagline.

Plenty seemed to complain about the time spent with Smartglass at Microsoft’s E3 conference, but TV/Gaming with an extra screen via a tablet or phone is a very real thing, it’s something Nintendo is obviously working on, and something Apple is trying to push with some of the iPad’s capabilities. The Smartglass is an interesting innovation, and I’m really interested to see how it can be integrated into gaming.

But yeah, a lot of this stuff seemed to come at the expense of games, so when Microsoft dragged out the whole, ‘we’re taking over US cable, and you should watch sports on your Xbox 360’ thing… that sucked.

So, overall, not enough games. Not enough to get excited about. No real new exclusives of note, and an interesting diversion with Smartglass.

Probably one of the weaker E3 showings from Microsoft I can remember.


  • There wasn’t much in there that got me excited, I was surprised by how good Halo 4 looked since I didn’t care about it up to this point.
    No games got me genuinely excited. Splinter Cell looks good but I hate the loss of Michael Ironside and the Fisher character now seems like someone you could have taken from a COD game.
    New Gears looks like old Gears (which is still good), Tomb Raider looks like a series of quicktime events (still interesting though), Kinect games all look terrible (that castle/angry birds thing needs a physics engine, Fable looks awful).
    Forza Horizon looks better than I thought it would be but I think i’ll stick to regular Forza until the next Xbox comes out.
    And like you I hated that they closed with COD, they may as well have closed with an expansion pack to last years edition (or the 3 years before that).

    God I hope we get some new hardware next year!!!

    • My heart just sank when Fisher opened his mouth. Michael Ironside has probably been one of the key factors that kept me returning to the Splinter Cell series. Now, I just don’t know :/

      • Yeah, Ironside was Fisher.

        … that and it didn’t help that Sam Fisher apparently no longer about stealth or working alone… The ‘action’ factor got so crazy I expected to see him do a backflip off of that RPG in slo-mo…


    (Assuming we count “EA Sports” as one game)

    *Runs off*

    In all seriousness though, not all that impressed.

    • Problem for MS is that it’s a multiplatform title. I just don’t get why the platform holders use their press conferences to promote games that are also coming to the competition’s platforms (Tomb Raider, South Park, COD, etc). I want to hear from Sony, MS and Nintendo why I should buy THEIR hardware. “It’s got the same games the other guys have got!” doesn’t really do it for me.

      But that leads into their other problem which is when you take out the multiplatform games you’re left with the same old games that MS have been pushing for over 5 years now. And frankly they’re starting to sound a little old and creaky. They really need to invest in some new exclusive IP.

      • Let’s face it – MS doesn’t have enough exclusives anymore to fill a press conference. I get they are trying to turn the xbox into a multi-function device, but it seems foolish to me to neglect the core function.

      • Everything multi-platform that they showed either had kinect functionality, or DLC first on Xbox Live. That’s a reason to buy MS stuff & why they show them…

        • It’s really not reason enough. Timed exclusive isn’t worth **** – I’m just as happy to buy a Sony or Nintendo console and have their (real) exclusives and then pick up MS’s so-called (i.e. timed) “exclusives” a few weeks/months later. They’d be better saving that money they’re paying for timed exclusive DLC and spending it on creating some original games which nobody else will have.

          And most of the Kinect functionality is pretty pointless, especially if you don’t want voice recognition. Which I certainly don’t – I’d feel like a complete dick sitting there talking to my TV.

        • Becuase if Microsoft turns up and shows Gears of War and Halo their presser looks rubbish.
          If Sony shows up and shows Uncharted and Resistance and then debuts trailers of Assassins Creed 3, GTA, Bioshock and the dozens of other games which are multiplatform then their console would look heaps better.

          • No, the same applies to Sony – again, I don’t get why they use their conference to plug multiplatform games.

            But this article is for thoughts on Microsoft’s E3 conference – I haven’t seen or heard anything of Sony’s yet. But we already know there will be at least 2 new original, exclusive IP’s there – The Last Of Us and Quantic Dream’s new game. I don’t object to MS or anybody creating sequels to their popular IP, the issue I’ve got is when that’s ALL they seem to have to offer.

  • The announcement of on the XBox was a huge deal for me personally.
    I’m sick and tired of dragging my work laptop to the living room to watch games.

    Gamewise it’s what people should expect – a heap of sequel announcements. There isn’t much more than that happening industry-wide at the moment.

  • I thought it was a vast improvement over last year.
    There was no demos of Kinect games (they skipped over Fable:The Journey).
    Whilst the talk of ‘apps’ was there… it was brief.
    The smartglass stuff made sense, and beyond explaining it… I don’t think they did badly with it.
    The real lowlight was the Nike game… we knew what that was, it’s the same as Ubisoft:Fitness Evolved which was a launch title for Kinect, and frankly was advertised a lot better… so why did we have a Matthew McConoghy impersonator up there talking about it for so long?

    We knew we weren’t going to hear about Rare, but it would’ve been nice.
    I was surprised that Ryse wasn’t there… but I suspect it’s been moved to the next generation of hardware.

  • All the conference boiled down too is “Microsoft-Xbox-Set-Top-Box” and passing off sequels as revolutionary when really they’re just evolutionary. There’ll be plenty of good stuff from developers this year, though really wanted Microsoft too surprise me again – which they haven’t done for about 3years now. Really feels like they’re artificially drawing out the console cycle past it’s use by date.

  • “when Microsoft dragged out the whole, ‘we’re taking over US cable, and you should watch sports on your Xbox 360′”

    I haven’t had a chance to watch anything yet, but does this quote allude to us getting NBA League Pass for X360? Because I am all for that. Pay for each sport separately and let them break away from terrible foxtel packages.

  • Terrible press conference — i get it, various games have voice support, smartglass was nice – though i felt too much time was spent on it without actually telling us anything. Is it an add-on? firmware upgrade? what new software/hardware do i need for my phone/tablet? The games were nice — but there was not enough.

  • Started off strong with Halo 4 which looks so much better then i thought it would and Splinter Cell which i wasn’t expecting. Then it went downhill from there. Smart Glass was interesting. Tomb Raider looked great and Black Ops 2 looked OK. Other then that… At least there were no kids demoing kinect…

  • By the end of the presentation, all I could think was – no games, kind of interesting smart glass concept, a bunch of features that can be better implemented by a $200 netbook and hdmi out cable. The netbook is probably more future proof too. I remember buying my 360 because of all the awesome exclusives. WTF happened?

    • Sorry – I think I undersold just how important the smart glass feature could be. This really could be the “Apple TV” device Steve Jobs envisioned.

  • Where were all the big first party exclusives? Worst e3 conference EVER.

    I dont really care about american sports, and if i did i wouldnt be foolish enough to assume we here in australia will be getting the those new services.

    Smart glass looks like wiiU -but without Mario, Zelda, DK, Metroid, … you know -the big first party exclusives that keep Nintendo going.

    As an xbox owner I am thoroughly underwhelmed. Hope Sony and Nintendo can get me excited, otherwise I guess i will have to rely on good ol viagra.

    oh yeah, I did like the south park guys!

  • Apps, CoD, exclusive DLC new iterations of existing franchises is this 2010, 2011? Underwhelming. I guess MS argument will be that they are now number 1 where it counts (USA) so doing the same thing year after year @ their conference will play to this market. I am not a fan of this but clearly it works for them sales wise.

  • microsoft totally dropped the ball, spent too much time on that smartglass thing that no one is really gonna use…

    the things that impressed me were tomb raider, jalo 4 and resi 6… 3 games…

    unless nintendo completely screws up, microsoft gets the wooden spoon of e3

  • The halo 4 demo looked exactly like metroid prime would if they re did it in hd. That’s all I could think of. It was the first level of metroid prime! And then the scanner was turned on.

    The only good bit was Matt and Trey. That was fun. And that’s the problem. Nothing else at the conference actually looked ‘fun’. The explosions looked impressive at the time, but it doesn’t look very fun. Keep that OTT stuff for movies.

  • Microsoft taunted the fact that their console is now the fastest-selling in the world. What they failed to mention is that this is in the backdrop of Nintendo moving on. And they aren’t.

    And anything smartglass does, the WiiU will probably do better since they can optimize with fixed hardware specs on the uPad, and then giggle all the way to the bank when developers actually design for it.

    This is of course presuming Nintendo capitalises properly on their new hardware…

  • I think you guys are really missing the big picture.. At least from what I SEE in this… The XBOX 360 is NOT going to be around much longer. It’s already old.. BUT! Microsoft is being smart. They are continuing some high selling, well known franchises ala Gears, Halo, and adding more content support to the system..

    Now.. 1 year from now, E3 2013.. XBOX is still selling because of aforementioned reasons, and BAM! Introducing the NEW XBOX WHATEVER which will not only have these ALREADY ESTABLISHED MICROSOFT GOODIES, but then all this NEW SHIT, PRE ORDER NOW FUCKERS!

    How is it not that easy to perceptive??? Of course they’re not going to jump into new IP for this console generation, I’d be VERY surprised if they aren’t already that one step ahead on this> The aim NOW is to cement the Kinect and Media aspects so when the next console comes out, people JUMP on it!

  • Damn the Tomb Raider demo annoyed the hell out of me!

    Oh, I’m just walking! Hope nothing bad happens to me- *Cue two minutes of moaning and getting hurt – in that order*

    Okay! Back to – Oh no – Bang. More falling, near-death experiences, moaning, etc.

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